It has been a tug of war at the office of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons in Lagos where negotiation has been ongoing for some weeks over how 17-year-old Rhoda would be taken care of as she prepares for delivery. Rhoda, as it happens, is now eight months pregnant, after she was allegedly raped by her boss, a Lebanese chef identified as Hassan Ali Husseini, an unmarried man in his 60s.
The teenager, who is now in the custody of NAPTIP, only came to Lagos from Plateau State, in June 2015, to make enough money to establish a business or go back to school, her brother, Joseph, told Saturday PUNCH.
But that may all just be a dream now. She alleged that on that fateful day in August 2015, her elderly boss gagged and forced himself on her. Shortly after, Rhoda said she noticed that she had missed her period. She told NAPTIP officials that he again raped her after he informed him that she might be pregnant.
She alleged that after many attempts by Husseini to force her to have an abortion without success, he kicked her out of his home.
“My sister told us that after she missed her period and confronted Husseini that she might be pregnant, the man took her to a drug store to get an abortion drug on two occasions. She said both times she used the drug, it did not work,” Rhoda’s brother said.
It was after this that Husseini allegedly chased the girl out of his house.
Joseph said his sister was brought to Lagos by another sibling of theirs who later took her to the chef, who was in need of housemaid in his Allen Avenue apartment where he lives alone.
“He initially denied raping and impregnating my sister in January when we first confronted him. But we had no doubt whatsoever that he was responsible.
“Who else could have raped my sister when she did not even know anywhere else in Lagos? Since she came to Lagos, she had always worked in his house and did not yet have friends around.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Husseini has finally opened up to officials of NAPTIP that he indeed had sexual intercourse with Rhoda but that it was consensual. The parties are now seeking an amicable settlement of the issue.
But the family said admitting responsibility was not enough.
“He has to be responsible for the girl and her child. I want justice for my sister. If a Nigerian had done this in Lebanon for instance, would the government there take it lightly with the culprit? My sister’s case should be able to show the world that we are a country that value our own people.
“They have been talking about getting an apartment for her where she could move into as soon as she delivers. But I will not look for an apartment for my sister who was raped by a foreigner. The rapist has to be the one to do that. He must get an apartment for her and make her comfortable. That child must have a father when it is born.
“My fear is that if he gets the apartment, without the commitment of NAPTIP, he would simply run away. It will be the fault of NAPTIP if that man escapes justice. If he was willing to rape her, then he should be willing to stand by her and be the father of her child.”
Saturday PUNCH could not gain access to Rhoda as the agency has kept her away in its rehabilitation home.
The girl’s mother is late while her father is in a remote community in Plateau State.
Joseph said the expectant girl has been extremely sad about her condition.
“My sister is a very hardworking girl, who just wanted a better life for herself. She is not afraid to work at all. After the man kicked her out of his house, she was afraid of telling us about what he did. We had to look for another job for her as a housemaid somewhere else. It was there that it was discovered that she was pregnant when her tummy had started growing,” Joseph said.
A source close to the case told our correspondent that Husseini had agreed that when Rhoda is delivered of her baby, if the child bears his foreign physical features, he would readily accept the baby. But if not, he would opt for a DNA test.
NAPTIP boss speaks
Saturday PUNCH reached out to the Zonal Commander of NAPTIP, Mr. Joseph Famakin, who explained the journey so far on the case.
He explained that the agency gathered through its investigation and interview of the parties that they indeed had sexual contact a number of times.
Famakin said, “It is not in my place to say whether it was rape or not. The police will determine that. She was first taken to Immigration before she was brought to us.
“In her report to Immigration, she claimed that she was raped until she became pregnant. After the pregnancy, they had a disagreement and she left the place and secured a job in another place where she worked for three months until they realised she was pregnant. They asked her to go.
“The Lebanese man said that he indeed had sexual intercourse with her but that he is not responsible for the pregnancy. When the Immigration learnt that the man is legally resident in Nigeria, they brought the girl to us.
“We realised that we had the responsibility to save the lady and her unborn child. Then, we put her in our shelter, so that she could get counselling and we could investigate. At the end of our investigation, if a case of trafficking is proved, we would take the man to court. If a case of rape is proved, we would refer it to the police.”
Famakin said Rhoda had been in the agency’s shelter for two months.
He also said that with the assistance of Husseini, Rhoda was registered for ante-natal.
According to him, the agency could not establish any evidence of trafficking in the case because it was one of Rhoda’s brothers who took her to the Lebanese man on agreement that he would pay for her services.
He said, “We have called both parties and the Lebanese man has agreed to take care of her until she delivers. He said if the child is black, he would do a DNA test before he accepts the child but if the baby is white, he would thank God for giving him a miracle.
“Our shelter is a temporary place of residence but the brother erroneously believes that the girl should stay with us till she delivers. We have done everything in the best interest of the girl and her baby. The Lebanese man was detained by us for days before he was able to produce a reasonable surety.”